The Lawn Poems

by Gerald Forshey

The Losing Battle

Struggles with my father
  were measured
  in the shape of a lawn.

From May to October
I disappointed him.
"Not enough water," he would say,
   viewing the parking strip
   beside the oil-covered dirt street,
even though I would wave the hose
up and down,
   back and forth,
thumb firmly applied to the spout.

"Leave the clippings,"
he would caution.
The younger children
would lay on the sidewalk,
   naked save for bathing trunks,
roasting ants with the magnifying glass
my father gave me one Christmas.

There were annual events
during those few years
between ten and seventeen.

In June, the lawnmower stripped
my mother's adored peony
of another year's bloom.
When she chided,
my attentive face hid the judgment
that she should never have planted it
in the middle of the yard.

September brought out the hated rake
heaping dead grass in piles
on the Victory Garden
where onions and radishes
and a single stalk of corn
gave us part of a meal
twice a year.

Then the dying lawn
was ready for backyard football,
with tackling and hitting
and my father complaining
about his grass being torn up,
urging his defiant son
to take the game to the empty lot
by the irrigation ditch.

I vowed that no son of mine
would ever fight those battles.
When I bought my home
I threatened to make
a green concrete garden
that no one ever

But now I water and mow and rake
with ineluctable diligence,
  preparing the yard for my guests
and beside smoldering fiery brands
  encased in gleaming black metal,
I ready the tips and gristle
 From the marinated ribs.

In the summer of my middle adulthood,
there were neighbors, colleagues, and kids
in my tiny patch of backyard.
   We drank orange lemonade,
   and the young ones ran through sprinklers,
  our noses filled with the pungent fumes
  of ribs and roasting corn
  on a well-loved grassy patch of earth
  as I slowly transformed into
my father's son.

Living With Weeds

Seven green continents
   and a miniscule island
   floating in a sea of
    disrupted concrete
     and cracking asphalt
constitute the lawn I live with.

At one time, I thought of it as
My lawn,
something to care for,
fight the good fight against
intrusive Villains
invading the carefully assorted
seeds sold by Experts.

The war continues.
They become apparitions,
then spear themselves
through the soil.
Ugliness is no more than
a terrible beauty.
A weed is only
an unloved wildflower.

Admiring my Wild Children,
I accept their belonging
In my green island.
Controlling them is but

These unkempt progeny
sturdily sporting an infinity of
battle scars,
die ,
rise, and

Against my will,
I come to love
these brutish flora,
and make peace with
the weeds that wrap themselves
into my disorderly existence.

Limits & Freedom

Round and round in endless repetition
The lawn remains constant
Under the whirring blades of the mower.

The corridors edged by concrete
never seems to change.
  Sidewalks and curbs,
  create the right angles
that extend my sidewalks to 210 feet,
bringing sidewalk traffic
North and South
East and West

I grouse;
I never wanted a corner lot.
I love the lawn
but hate the care.
Lawns give you orders,
worry you
before vacations,
exact slavery and labor
on hot and dry days,
demanding water
while dying in drought.

I always wanted to
slather concrete over the grass,
paint it green,
end the pain forever.

Grass is the Given
in a complicated equation
made of equal parts
reason and emotion.
The grass grows in well defined
cubicles of contentment
occasionally venturing outward
into a sidewalk crack
or spilling over onto the curb.

The Given
defines my mowing --
an unchangeable and
predetermined perimeter

For years I fought against
this unthinking determinism
as I was pulled back and forth
across the definitions
ordained long ago by surveyors
who cut the prairie
into streets, lots, and sidewalks.

My wife --
the other owner who loves the lawn,
persistently redefines the boundaries.
A new flower-bed around the streetpost,
replanting the rhododendron,
moving the Japanese magnolia
as if she could redefine the Well-Ordered-Existence.

Across the street,
Mexican gardeners mow diagonally
one way this week
the opposite next.
I determine
  that if I must mow this space
I will never do it twice the same way.
I will exert my freedom,
throughout my stewardship of this place,
switching, dipping,
breaking loose from the rectangular,
alternating perimeter mowing and
linear mowing,
circling the trees in different aspects,
mowing in two green continents
while crossing sidewalks.

The image of Sisyphus
   pushing his personal boulder
    up the eternal mountain
grips me as I push,
transforms my labor into
reshapes my grasp on
My face becomes one
with my green rock
and I rejoice.

©2001 by Gerald Forshey

Gerald Forshey has mowed lawns in Nevada, California and Illinois. He also taught ethics and world religions in the City Colleges of Chicago. And he has written about movies in various venues.

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